ENCOURAGING pupils to be creative could be the next big idea to hit the curriculum. It follows the launch last Friday of a renewed drive to make all young people in primary and secondary schools "technologically capable".
Both moves are led by Learning and Teaching Scotland and the IDES network, which supports design, technology and enterprise in schools. They believe technology education, with its strong emphasis on design, is closely linked to creativity.
The two organisations have already set up a project on creativity to turn it into a curricular reality, led by Kevin Gavin, the former director of education in Moray.
This new focus coincides with a strong personal commitment by Jack McConnell, the Education Minister, who specifically underlined the importance he attaches to developing "creativity and ambition" among pupils when he launched the national priorities for education last week. The promotion of citizenship education comes from the same stable.
These ideas fit with the growing emphasis by the Scottish Executive on giving pupils what John Elvidge, secretary of its education department, described at last Friday's conference as "a broader, more generic approach to education not a narrow reliance on teachers' own specialisms". This had its political origins in the speech to Labour's Scottish conference in March by Donald Dewar, the late First Minister.
The emphasis on creativity has the attraction for the Executive that it spans a number of its policies from the national cultural strategy to education for work to the need for more business start-ups to the management of education itself. All are said to require flexible, adaptable, creative thinkers.
Denis Stewart, assistant chief executive of Learning and Teaching Scotland, believes creativity in education is an all-embracing concept. "It involves various ways of thinking - imaginative, intuitive, logical, and of realising - making, communicating, doing."
But Mr Stewart acknowledges that allowing pupils and teachers to fulfil their creative potential introduces tensions between what is possible and what is desirable or acceptable.
The parallel drive to give pupils an entitlement to "technology for all" too another step forward at last Friday's conference in Dundee. First promulgated by a report from the former curriculum council in 1996, the notion is that pupils should have four kinds of technological capability: to make sense of the made world ("technological perspective"); to change things ("technological creativity"); to be confident and enterprising ("technological confidence"); to have caring and responsible attitudes ("technological sensitivity").
Mr Stewart said technology education should help young people "to live purposefully, productively, confidently and wisely".
Two schools at the forefront of developing technology for all endorsed the initiative. Lydia Catto, head of Forthill Primary in Dundee, said it was essential to generate a "supportive climate" which meant adequate resources and space as well as enthusiastic staff and pupils. John Fyffe, assistant head of Monifieth High, said technology teachers should look beyond their subject to encourage "creativity and capability" across all school departments.
But Professor David Telford, a former chief scientific adviser to the Secretary of State who chaired the project group, said initial teacher training would have to ensure teachers themselves were technologically capable. This would have to be backed by ongoing professional development.
It was also essential to stimulate interest and support from industry, Professor Telford said. One link has already been established between the multinational giant Nikon and schools in six education authorities. The initial plan is to help build technological confidence involving around 40 primary and secondary teachers at the key P6-S2 stages, according to Russell MacAllister, Nikon's training manager, who is a former further education lecturer.
The conference also saw the launch of new teaching resources, a CD-Rom Exploring Everyday Products and a primary pack designed with the help of teachers to support the revised 5-14 guidelines on the technology component of environmental studies.
Learning and Teaching Scotland and IDES say it is important to distinguish between technology education and information technology. The former helps young people to think more creatively while the latter is about effective communication, says Richard Coton, head of Monifieth High, who chairs the IDES network.